Last Monday I was fortunate to meet with participants and carers involved in as well as the organisers of the leadership program for people with disabilities, Leadership Plus. The program has run for three years and has 12 monthly intakes. This involves one three-day opening retreat in Geelong followed by eight two-day seminars in various Victorian locations throughout 2007.
Leadership Plus promotes people with disabilities as leaders and works towards a society that will value diversity in leadership. The program is not necessarily directed at championing disability rights and related issues but rather at ensuring that people with disabilities can be and are leaders in many fields within our communities and that, like everyone else, they are afforded the opportunity to further develop their expertise and networks.
This was amply demonstrated to me that evening by one of the participants, who approached me about the special needs of women with mental illness. It was clear that she had a very detailed knowledge of services and a very enthusiastic strategy to help women.
Consequential outcomes for communities that host the program are multifaceted and multilayered — for example, the accommodation provider in Geelong organised training for the 14 hospitality and housekeeping employees on the needs of program participants and as a result modifications were made to facilities. It is a process of involving everyone and having a more aware community that allows disabled access issues to be naturally integrated into town planning and landscapes. I urge all Victorian communities to engage in, support and hopefully at some time host the program.